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Savannah parade postponed as Georgia reacts to virus

FILE - In this Saturday, March 16, 2019, file photo, members of the Georgia Southern University Army ROTC Eagle Battalion marches in the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade, in Savannah, Ga. Business leaders in Savannah, postponed the city’s 196-year-old St. Patrick’s Day parade Wednesday, March 11, 2020, amid concerns about the new coronavirus hours after Gov. Brian Kemp took the extraordinary step of asking state lawmakers to approve $100 million in additional funding to help the state combat the virus. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)
March 11, 2020 - 3:20 PM

ATLANTA - Business leaders in Savannah, Georgia, postponed the city’s 196-year-old St. Patrick’s Day parade Wednesday amid concerns about the new coronavirus hours after Gov. Brian Kemp took the extraordinary step of asking state lawmakers to approve $100 million in additional funding to help the state combat the virus.

Meanwhile, Georgia's caseload of people with COVID-19 reached 22 and more than 100 schools in two districts were closed Wednesday as more public events were scrapped.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson planned an evening news conference on the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Started by Irish immigrants to Georgia’s oldest city in 1824, the March 17 parade has ballooned into a massive street party that’s Savannah’s most profitable tourism draw.

Savannah's Tourism Leadership Council released a brief statement saying the annual celebration had been “postponed to a later date not yet determined.”

The group added: “No businesses are asked to close.”

According to a letter from Kemp to House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, $100 million in additional funding would be pulled from state reserves and would be used for preparedness and response efforts. Ralston said he “fully supports” Kemp's request.

Events being derailed to contain the spread of this coronavirus include an 80th birthday party for civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, which had been planned for a large music hall in downtown Atlanta on March 28. The party was postponed to keep all attendees safe and healthy, Lewis' representatives said in a statement Wednesday.

Georgia's initial quarantine solution for people who test positive but can't stay at home and don't require hospitalization also got its first resident. The person is now staying at Hard Labor Creek State Park, where mobile housing units for quarantine have been set up in one section of the park, Kemp's office said.

For most people, this coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. More than 120,000 people have been infected worldwide, with more than 4,300 deaths, but the vast majority recover within weeks. The U.S. tally topped 1,000 cases on Wednesday, with at least 37 deaths.

Earlier Wednesday, some of the passengers from a cruise ship in California that carried people infected by the new coronavirus arrived at an air base in Georgia to begin a two-week quarantine.

The passengers arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta, base officials said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. The statement didn't specify the number; they've said previously they were planning for dozens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have full responsibility for all aspects of the quarantine, and Dobbins' personnel will have no contact with the passengers, the base's statement said. The passengers taken to Dobbins were screened before arrival, and none have been showing symptoms, it said.

The Grand Princess docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday after spending days off the California coast while quarantine plans were made and test kits dropped by military helicopters showed 21 people on board had COVID-19.

Fulton County Schools, one of the nation's largest school districts, closed all schools for a second straight day Wednesday after a teacher who worked at two middle schools was found to have the virus. With about 93,000 students and more than 100 schools, Fulton County is the largest school district to close nationwide, according to data kept by Education Week.

In south Georgia, more than 8,000 students in Valdosta City Schools stayed home Wednesday as its buildings were cleaned after a student teacher at an elementary school had “indirect contact" with family members who may have been exposed to COVID-19, the district said in a statement. The student teacher has an “extremely low risk of any significant exposure to the coronavirus," but officials said they decided to close all schools for a day as a precaution.

In Georgia, 22 people have now tested positive for the virus, though some tests have yet to be confirmed by the CDC, Kemp said late Tuesday. The cases are from Charlton, Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fayette, Floyd, Fulton, and Polk counties.


Associated Press Writer Ben Nadler in Atlanta contributed to this report.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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